Our most prized personal possessions can say a lot about who we are and where we came from. The hand-me-down jacket we never throw away, the family heirloom we always display, or the scrapbook filled with memories can preserve a treasure trove of history.
In honor of Black History Month this year, we’re spotlighting three Black employees at ServiceNow who share their favorite artifacts and the rich stories behind them.
One thing in Jessica M.’s home always catches an eye: her father’s Miami Dolphins helmet. A senior program manager in platform engineering operations, Jessica is the proud daughter of Don McNeal, an All-American, two-time national championship-winning football player for the University of Alabama who went on to become the Dolphins’ first-round draft pick in 1980 and led the team in interceptions his rookie year.
Don dominated with the Miami Dolphins, one of the winningest teams in the NFL during the ’80s, and played in two Super Bowls. In college, he participated in the famous goal line stand that sealed the 1978 national championship for Alabama against Penn State. But his path to success wasn’t easy.
At age 6, Don’s mother died, leaving him and his nine siblings to be raised by a single father. In a tiny town in Alabama in the ’60s and ’70s, schools were just being integrated. Don was one of the first athletes of color to play at the University of Alabama.
“It’s interesting that my dad is part of that history with the changing course of sports,” Jessica says. “I’ve always admired that about my dad.”
After a phenomenal football career, Don served as a pastor for 30 years. “He influenced me to be compassionate about people,” Jessica adds.
Now 64, Don lives with dementia and multiple sclerosis, but it doesn’t get him down. In fact, he sees it as a blessing. “My dad is just extremely positive, and he wants to inspire people,” Jessica explains. “He doesn't want people to look at their circumstances and be discouraged.”
When Jessica looks at her dad’s helmet, she’s reminded of the many obstacles he’s overcome, how hard he’s worked, and the incredible example he’s set for her.
When Avery G., an employee communications and engagement manager, glances at a certain gold African elephant figurine in her home, “it’s just an immediate smile on my face,” she says.
Passed down from her great-grandmother, who lived to be 102 years old, the elephant represents the strength, wisdom, and loyalty displayed by the women in Avery’s family.
Avery’s great-grandmother grew up in the early 1900s in the South, where she struggled to overcome poverty, racism, and other hardships. She had 13 children and worked as a seamstress and caregiver. Her nurturing nature carried over to all facets of her life.
“I’m just always so amazed that someone who experienced so much could walk through life with so much faith and grace and gratitude and love for other people,” Avery says.
Avery’s grandmother and mother inherited these same qualities, which they passed down to Avery through communing together over the years—often with the same gold African elephant in the room. Today, numerous elephants fill the homes of Avery’s family members to remind them of the amazing history they all share and the resilience they possess.
“At least once a week, I wonder how I got so lucky that I got to be from a lineage of women, these powerful women, who don’t believe in limits, who don’t believe in being a victim of your circumstances," Avery says. “When I look at the elephant, it’s a reminder that I’m really never alone.”
John D., a principal success architect, has a twinkle in his eye as he holds his wedding photo, what he calls “essential me.” It features him, his wife, and their two grandmothers smiling together at the reception. “What makes this photo so special is we both are who we are because of family,” John says.
What brought his family together over the years was a distinctive place of gathering: Wayland Temple Baptist Church in North Philadelphia. Growing up, John moved around a lot. “The thing that anchored me through all of those changes and all of that transience was really Wayland Temple,” he says. “It’s the one place where I know I can find the folks I’m looking for.”
John's family members are heavily involved in the administration of the church. His grandparents were the deacon and deaconess, and his uncle is still the head deacon.
“I love that I can just show up on a Sunday and walk inside those front doors, and I’m going to see at least a half-dozen family members,” he says. “That sense of unity, that sense of growth, that sense of belonging and strength that comes from being a part of an ever-growing collective is really my definition of ‘stronger together.’”
Every time John sees that wedding photo on his mantel, he’s reminded of that strength and the “place of restoration” that his family has called home for generations.
No matter what we hold dear to us, ServiceNow appreciates the vulnerability required to share our stories. We’re proud to be a company that fosters this space of openness, bravery, and togetherness, especially during Black History Month.
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